Remembering red

She would have been in her nineties yesterday, if she had still been living although I don't think she had any plans to meet that decade.  She talked about dying like she looked forward to it, even without faith to lean on.  In the last year of her life, I could tell she was waiting.  Her health wasn't the best and her energy was dwindling.  It was hard for me to see.

As long as I can remember, her hair was an unnatural red, a trademark she styled from her youth.  On one visit, I noticed that it had been too many months since she had covered up the thin, white wisps beneath.  It hung straight down in its confusing hues rather than pinned up neatly in her french twist.  I didn't like it.  It seemed her head declared the white flag of surrender.  She was done with living, but I wasn't finished with her, so we went to the salon.

I met her when I was ten.  She visited my home on Harbury Drive after my mom was recovering from a broken leg.  She was as wide as she was tall, and I realized how that endeared her to me.  Her hugs were soft, or at least she was when I hugged her.  It seemed a concept unfamiliar to her in the early years of our knowing.  She was officially my great aunt, though in my mind she was more of a Grandma.

I was afraid of her at first.  She was feisty and opinionated.  She was politically incorrect, and there were many times in public that I would hope no one could hear what she was saying.  My parents told me she had a ouija board, and went to fortune tellers.  She was apparently open minded because she eventually started going to church with us, though I think it was more to ease the pangs of loneliness than any hunger she had for the gospel.  Still, that weekly exposure grew a love in me that makes me miss her.

Time passed and I grew up while she grew shorter.  I began to visit her on a monthly basis, toddlers in tow, to give her an allergy shot.  We would venture out to lunch, usually Frisch's, and she would eat very little, very slowly.  The outings became increasingly difficult once she started using a walker, and her pace slowed to a shuffle.  By then, I had four hands to hold, and one elderly lady to keep from falling.  The days that promised rain and snow were the worst.

One year, on her birthday, we treated her to a pizza place.  She ordered a beer and laughed when they placed the cold, frosty mug in front of her.  She couldn't finish it, but she tried and we were all delighted by her efforts.  It was a reminder of her youth.  She was young once, like me, and I will be old soon, like her.  I hope someone loves me enough to treat me for my eighty something birthday.

My phone would ring on the 15th of every month.  If I didn't answer, there would be a message, "Hi, it's Aunt Dodie.  Time for my shot."  Those calls don't come anymore.

I visited her in the hospital, sat beside her bed and held her hand.  My kids were with me to say goodbye.  Quiet tears flowed down my face, and she looked at me like I was weird and told me to stop crying.  But I wanted her to know that she wasn't alone.  (I've seen too many lonely deaths.)  I wanted her to know that she was loved, that she would be missed, and so I didn't bother wiping them away.  "I love you, too." she said.  It came out awkward, like she hadn't had much practice saying it in her lifetime, but I knew it was true and that made it beautiful.

Our Hands ~

I hold your hand inside my own
And trace the lines of blue
Painted by the years of life
In an artistic hue
The grooves upon your face unite
As lips turn up in smile
It's beautiful, this time with you
I settle for a while
We talk of faded days now gone
Bring life to them anew
Joyful times abound between
And sorrows retold too      
Though spoken not with lips we own
Our hearts whisper the truth
Moments here to hold a hand
Will always be too few


  1. Very moving. A touching testimony to two beautiful souls - Aunt Dodie and you


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